Scoring Machine! Lionel Messi Breaks 40-Year Record for Goals in a Year

PHOTO: Barcelonas Lionel Messi from Argentina, right, and Betis Nacho Perez, left, vie for the ball during their La Liga soccer match at the Benito Villamarin stadium, in Seville, Spain on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi scored two golazos in a 2-1 win against Real Betis on Sunday, helping his team to its 14th win this season and breaking Gerd Muller's 40-year-old record for most goals scored in a single calendar year with 86.

The small Argentine, nicknamed "La Pulga," or the Flea, didn't take long to match the German's record when he calmly slotted a left-footed shot into the low corner of the net in the 16th minute. Nine minutes later, the record was his when he played Andrés Iniesta through on goal, only for the Spaniard to flick it back to Messi, who was more than obliged to rip it past Betis goalkeeper Adrian.

Those two goals vaulted Messi past Muller, who set the record back in 1972 when he scored 85 goals for club team Bayern Munich, and his national side, West Germany.

Earlier this year, Messi had already surpassed Brazil's legendary striker Pele, who scored 75 goals in 1959.

However, there were fears last week that Messi's year was done when he sustained an injury in a Champions League group phase match against Portuguese side Benfica.

The 25-year-old striker started his day on the bench, but was called into action in the 58th minute. Almost a half hour later, he was one-on-one with Benfica keeper Artur, whose diving attempt at the ball awkwardly caught Messi's left knee. Messi was still able to get a shot on goal, but fell to the ground clutching his left knee. He was stretchered off the field, but Barcelona later announced that the injury was not serious, saying Messi only suffered a bruised knee.

In fact, the tenacious Messi made a quick turn around and went to the gym the very next day to continue training.

With only a few weeks left in the year, the Barcelona forward could elevate his record if he continues with his prolific scoring rate – which includes 74 goals for Barcelona and 12 for his native Argentina. The Catalan side has three games left in the season, two away and one at home.

Messi has also helped pace Barcelona to the best start ever in La Liga, winning 14 matches and only drawing one game; good for 43 points, which gives Barça an 11-point lead over arch-rival Real Madrid.

Messi and Barcelona next face second division side Cordoba in a Copa del Rey matchup on Wednesday.

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